High-ranking jihadist arrested: Mali security sources

Fighters from Islamic group Ansar Dine pictured in northern Mali in August 2012 (AFP Photo/Romaric Ollo Hien)

Bamako (AFP) - Malian special forces have arrested a suspected jihadist leader in the south of the country, security sources said Sunday.

"Yacouba Toure, number two in the Ansar Dine of the South terrorist group, was arrested on Thursday outside Bamako," a security source told AFP.

His group is suspected of providing weapons to other jihadist groups in southern Mali as well as in Burkina Faso, the source added.

The arrest follows that of Souleymane Keita, described as the top jihadist leader in southern Mali, in March.

Keita has been linked to the Ansar Dine group, which was one of three Islamist factions that conquered vast swathes of the country's north in 2012 before being repelled by French troops.

Some areas remain beyond the control of Malian and foreign forces and the jihadist attacks, previously concentrated in the north, have spread to the centre and south since last year.

According to a second security source, Toure, a Malian in his forties, first joined Islamic fighters in the northeast Kidal region in 2010.

It was there that he met Keita and Boubacar Sawadogo, head of Ansar Dine's Burkinabe branch.

Toure provided the arms and grenades used by Sawadogo's fighters to launch a deadly attack on a police station in Burkina Faso last October, the second source said.

He had tried to evade capture last week by posing as a livestock dealer, according a source close to the enquiry.

Last year Keita was accused by security services of heading a jihadist military training camp discovered outside Bamako.

He was also accused of attacks in Fakola and Misseni near the border with neighbouring Ivory Coast in 2015 as well as in Bamako.